Last night in the #SSChat on Twitter I shared one of my go-to methods for introducing students to reading and analyzing primary source documents. That Tweet received a bunch of likes and other responses. What I shared was, “I use the Avalon Project + Google Docs with high school US history students for primary source guided reading.” Twitter isn’t always conducive to full explanations of an idea. I’ve shared the explanation before and I’ve copied it below too.
Here’s the process for hosting an online discussion about a primary source.
1. Find a digital copy, preferably in the Public Domain, of the primary source document that I want all of my students to read. The Avalon Project is a great place to find primary source documents.
2. Copy and paste the primary source document into a Google Document.
3. Share the document with my students and allow them to comment on the document. I usually use the sharing setting of “anyone with the link” and then post the link on my blog. Alternatively, you could share by entering your students’ email addresses or by posting it in your Google Classroom.
4. I will highlight sections of the primary source document and insert a comment directly attached to the highlighted section. In my comments I will enter discussion prompts for students. They can then reply directly to my comments and each others’ comments.
Using this process in a classroom that is not 1:1
If you teach in a classroom that is not 1:1 you can still take advantage of some of this process. Consider having one or two students play the role of note-taker in the Google Document while you are hosting your classroom discussion with all of your students reading the printed version of the article. Have your note-takers tie comments to specific parts of the article. When the activity is over, posted the final set of notes on your classroom blog by selecting “public on the web” in the sharing setting of the Google Document and then post the link on your classroom blog.